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Monday July 15 2024

Turkic states forge path to economic integration and global influence through Middle Corridor [COMMENTARY]

9 July 2024 08:30 (UTC+04:00)
Turkic states forge path to economic integration and global influence through Middle Corridor [COMMENTARY]
Nazrin Abdul
Nazrin Abdul
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One of Azerbaijan's primary foreign policy priorities is to strengthen relations with Turkic states. These relationships are rooted in shared ethnic and cultural heritage, language, historical ties, and mutual national values, forming a solid foundation for productive cooperation.

In line with expanding these relations, an unofficial summit of the Organization of Turkic States was convened in Shusha on July 6, culminating in the signing of the Garabagh Declaration. Emphasizing the development of stable and diversified ties among Turkic states, the declaration underscores the importance of fully utilizing their potential across political, economic, transport, defense, humanitarian, educational, and cultural domains.

In his comment to Azernews on the issue, British expert Neil Watson highlighted the critical role of cooperation among OTS members in constructing and optimizing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, known as the Middle Corridor:

"Collaboration among OTS members plays an integral role in the construction, successful operation, and efficiency of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, known as the Middle Corridor — with Azerbaijan as the main catalyst. This route originates from Southeast Asia and China, traversing Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and extending further into European countries. Collaboration among OTS countries is essential to realize this initiative, underscored by its significance to Europe, notably amidst the Russia and Ukraine conflicts. This importance was recently highlighted at a high-level conference at Arundel House in London, organized by the Caspian Policy Centre. The conference was attended by ambassadors, diplomats, and other stakeholders representing all collaborating countries," he emphasized.

Additionally, attention was drawn to the ongoing renewal and modernization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.

" The Middle Corridor is inherently digital, necessitating the utilization of state-of-the-art tracking technologies to mitigate potential customs issues and ensure seamless operation as a fully integrated entity. Several high-speed rail links have been completed or are underway, prominently the upgraded Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway," expert stated.

The expert emphasized that the private sector should understand the main and increasingly important importance of the Middle Corridor for Europe.

"The private sector must recognize the pivotal and increasingly relevant role of the Middle Corridor for Europe. In the current global landscape, where China and Southeast Asia serve as the world's workshops, optimizing logistics to swiftly and securely transport their products worldwide is imperative. The Middle Corridor's importance and relevance to Europe and the Western world are bound to increase, promising substantial benefits to all participants in a world where international dynamics are in flux and trade serves as a great equalizer," he said.

Simultaneously, he expressed deep appreciation for the collaboration among OTS states in the fields of economy, transport, and defense industry.

"Reflecting on my participation in the Middle Corridor conference in London, it's clear that OTS and other associated nations are forging unprecedented levels of collaboration. The Middle Corridor holds immense potential to foster greater understanding. Indeed, all OTS nations are actively investing in and positioned to reap economic benefits from the Middle Corridor, with substantial upgrades to their transportation infrastructures underway. Despite historical efforts by the Soviet Union and Russia to diminish the collective influence of Turkic nations, recent years have witnessed a decline in Russian dominance and a stronger sense of Turkic unity. Now is the opportune moment for OTS nations to assert themselves as significant players on the global stage," Neil Watson said.

Economist expert Vugar Bayramov emphasized in his statement that the Turkic states are a regional power: "If we consider that the gross domestic product of the Turkic states is 1.4 trillion dollars and at the same time, taking into account their purchasing power parity, the combined gross domestic product of the Turkic states exceeds 4.7 trillion dollars. This indicates that the Turkic states are a regional power, and because they are a regional power, their economy contributes to the development of regional and global trade. Undoubtedly, one of the important points here is that more than 90 percent of the trade of the Turkic states is with countries outside the Turkic world."

He stated that the main goals of the Garabagh declaration signed in Shusha are the acceleration of integration among Turkic states and simultaneously the expansion of trade relations.

"One of the main goals is that, in addition to increasing the trade turnover of Turkic states, it should also be possible to expand trade relations among Turkic states and achieve an increase in the share of Turkic states' mutual trade in the total trade turnover. In this context, of course, the Garabagh Declaration will contribute to the expansion of trade turnover among Turkic states," the expert added.

Vugar Bayramov, in return, emphasized decisions related to the creation of investment funds and their exemption from taxation, as well as activities aimed at facilitating the trade regime, including its electronicization, which he noted would enable an increase in trade turnover among Turkic states and allow them to contribute more to regional and global trade.

"The integration of Turkic states and the expansion of their economic relations, increased use of electronic services, and infrastructure development are also crucial in terms of expanding the Middle Corridor."

The expert stated that there has been increased interest in the Middle Corridor after the Russian-Ukrainian war. On the other hand, he noted that since sanctions against Russia and Iran remain in force, all of this stimulates the transportation of more products from both Europe and other developed countries through the Middle Corridor.

"It is undeniable that Turkic states are leading regional players in the Middle Corridor. On one hand, the order formed after Azerbaijan's victory allows for the closer realization of the Middle Corridor and the possibility of transporting more goods through it. In 2023 alone, an increase of more than 30 percent was recorded in the volume of cargo transported across the region. This is, of course, related to the development of transport and logistics infrastructure in Turkic states, including Azerbaijan, increased use of electronic services, as well as a unified tariff policy in transportation among Turkic states, thereby reducing transportation costs."

The expert noted that the recent meeting held in Shusha and the agreements reached in this context will also facilitate the expansion of the Middle Corridor.

"Of course, Azerbaijan is working on increasing the throughput capacity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The throughput capacity of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars will be increased from 1 million tons to 5 million tons. In this regard, $100 million has been allocated from the 2024 state budget, with the goal of enhancing the role of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars as a component of the Middle Corridor, as well as a segment of the East-West transport corridor for increased cargo transportation."

The expert also stated that putting the Zangazur corridor into operation will enable more intensive use of the East-West corridor as a whole, including the Middle Corridor.

"This, of course, is important in terms of increasing the region's income from international cargo transportation. Undoubtedly, these are new opportunities for the region. In this context, the Garabagh Declaration will serve to increase the volume of cargo transported across the region as a whole and further strengthen the geopolitical and geo-economic position of Turkic states," said Vugar Bayramov.

In conclusion, the recent Garabagh Declaration, signed in Shusha, signifies a significant step towards enhancing integration among Turkic states and expanding their trade relations. This agreement not only aims to boost trade turnover but also underscores the strategic importance of infrastructure development, electronic services utilization, and unified tariff policies in optimizing the Middle Corridor's efficiency.

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